Last week, in congressional testimony, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised Darby for "honorable and responsible actions." Democrats and Republicans seeking a positive note in this mess also praise the soldier.
The Darby family just wants him home safe. They hear from the Pentagon that Darby is heading back from Iraq for a two-week break before he testifies against his fellow soldiers in the courts martial.
His mother, Margaret Blank, who has diabetes, lost an eye to cancer and has trouble walking, has long hoped her son would return -- he has been overseas all but 3 1/2 months in the last three years -- but she had never imagined he would do so under these circumstances. She looks forward to the day their lives will feel normal again.
And she sees the fighter in him on a scale she never imagined before.
"As his mother, I'm very proud he stood by his beliefs," she says. "He stood true to his country."
Darby's wife of six years, Bernadette, stands by him, too. She lives in Cumberland, near other families from the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company, some of whose members are at the center of the scandal.
Today, Bernadette Darby flies an American flag outside their home, even in the rain and even through the night.
It is a sign of solidarity with her husband.
In the living room of Gilbert Reffner's home, while a ham stew boils on the stove, the phone rings. Reffner takes his cigarette and leaves his neighbor, Jennifer Pettitt, at the kitchen table while he goes to answer it.
Across the street is Joe Darby's old home, the doghouse for his huge mutt, Bear, still sitting in the back yard by the clothesline. Darby moved away in 1997. Most neighbors weren't here when Darby sat on the front steps of 109 Cloud St., a modest duplex with beige aluminum siding. The people next door fit into a later chapter in Jenners' history, with their "Let's Roll" license plate and 9/11 flag that reads, "Our nation will eternally honor the heroes of Flight 93."
But Reffner and Pettitt are old-timers. They remember Darby. They're practically spokesmen for him now.
It's USA Today on the phone. Reffner starts talking into the receiver with a country twang:
"He had respect for life. Even when he was growing up, he wouldn't join in and disgrace somebody."
At the table, Jennifer Pettitt looks tired. She works nights at Dunkin' Donuts. She knows how few opportunities there are for kids in Jenners. Her own daughters -- one of whom dated Darby during high school -- moved away. This old mining town of 250 doesn't give youngsters many options. That's why a lot of them join the military.
The U.S. Army Reserve wasn't Darby's plan at first, the neighbors know. He'd spent all those hours studying forestry at the vocational school he attended part time. He told his teachers he hoped he'd be a park ranger one day. He had dreams of going to college, even getting a master's in forestry, but he lacked the money to make any of it a reality.
Soon, the student who got excited about identifying trees and figuring compass readings -- an acne-scarred high-school kid who took his mother to Future Farmers of America awards banquets -- was headed overseas to fight.
Pettitt considers that an innocent time now. This is a patri- otic area, she says, and people want to support their country. But as the 54-year-old western Pennsylvania native listens to her neighbor on the phone, praising Joe Darby for standing up for what he believed in, she stays quiet. She sees this as a far more complicated story.
She sighs and closes her eyes when she's asked if Jenners is proud of Darby.
"I don't think it's that simple," she says. "I was down at the store and I heard this comment, `Well, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.' We're thinking about the retribution he'll get from the people in his unit."
And she wonders how deep the damage will go.
Reffner hangs up with USA Today and sits back down. He's not used to attention like this. Most of his afternoons are spent quietly caring for his 91-year-old mother, Helen. Every weekend, the 50-year-old son pulls the curlers from his mother's hair and listens to her stories, like how Albert Einstein once wanted to date her (but never did).
There's a horseshoe by the Reffners' porch door, a memento from the days mules pulled the wagons in the coal mine Gilbert Reffner's grandfather operated in Jenners. The family's resources have since dwindled with the area's. Now Jenners is best known for what it used to be.
A story like Darby's is pretty clear-cut to his former neighbor. Reffner has been telling reporters about how Joe Darby refused to cut across his yard when the kid would visit his then-girlfriend, Chrissie Pettitt. Reffner invited him to trespass but Darby said no, his mother wouldn't approve. Reffner calls it early evidence of Darby's values.